Back in December we went to a film event in our town. I love our film series here – they pick films that will start a conversation. The evening starts with a shared meal, the viewing of a film, followed by a discussion with a panel. The December Film was A Place At the Table – please take the time to see the movie, if you have Netflix you can watch it for free. This movie made such an impression on me and Stella was so upset by watching this she could not watch the whole thing. I won’t get into my thoughts on our government or society here – because frankly, I could go on for pages and pages! This movie started me thinking and wanting to take the Food Stamp Challenge – and that is what we are going to do for the month of February.
Stella is not overly happy about this and I have asked her to write about her experience on the blog in February, which I hope she does. At this point she told me that she is going to write – “I didn’t want to do this, but my mom made me”. We discussed that if we were on food stamps or the SNAP program that she would be getting her breakfast and lunch for free at school and in our county she would also be sent home each Friday with a backpack of food for the weekend. When our discussions first started about this she refused to do that and told me that the majority of kids who were consistently sick at school were on the free lunch program and did I want her sick all the time?! Smart kid!! She has now agreed to eat the school lunch 2 out of the 4 weeks, telling me that she will get the chef salad and fruit each day. Most of the lettuce at the schools is provided from local farmers here as part of the farm to school program.
Why are we doing this? I want to see what it is like to have a set amount of money to spend on food and see if we can continue to eat in a healthy and nutritious way. I do understand that I am resourceful (have already found a place to get free homemade raviolis) and have the skills to make my own bread among other things. There are other reasons but I will share those along our journey in February.
Taking the month of January to plan out meals, grocery lists – has been difficult. I have learned a lot about the SNAP program. Looking at the chart, if we were to qualify for the most assistance, which most families do not, we would get $127.75 per person per month – BUT there have been cuts to the program and in 2014 the average decrease in benefits per person will be $10 per month. Since the chart of the true amount is not out for Virginia or any state we will be doing the challenge on $255.50 for the month (2 people in our household) that is about $9.13 per day (for one person $4.56). That is $3.04 per meal for a family of 2 or $1.52 per meal for 1 person. Check this link out to see the amount allotted per state.
I have set some parameters for us and want to share those. Since I spend much time preserving food my freezer is pretty well stocked – I will not be taking anything from my freezer, but if I do I will take the cost of it out of our Food Stamp money. I figured if I had been laid off or lost my job and went to file for the SNAP program it would take about a month before I got my first amount of money and would have gone through most of what I had in the fridge and pantry – therefore I will only be able to use the items that are on my refrigerator door, what spice and oils are in the cabinets and whatever flour, sugar, etc are in the jars on the shelf. So I will not be starting with much. I will not be going to our local food bank during the month, this is an experiment and I don’t want to take food away from those that truly need it. One other disclaimer, I consult for a local health food store and get a discount on my purchases, but I will be taking the full amount out of our SNAP allotment of money.
So for February – I hope you follow our journey. It will not be easy and I am sure it will be a struggle and I will spend more time figuring grocery lists and menus out than I normally do – but it will be a learning experience and once that I am sure will be lasting. Here’s to the challenge!